Sobralia atropubescens

Ames & C. Schweinfurth 1930

Native to Costa Rica and Panama

Edited 9 April 2007
© Nina Rach

Sobralia atropubescens pix by Jay Vanini

Sobralia atropubescens Ames & C. Schweinfurth

Original publication: Sched. Orch. 10:2, 1930.

This beautiful species has large, brick-red to brown flowers with a red/brown and white/yellow lip. It was named for the dark red pubescens (pilose) stems. It grows as a terrestrial up to 1 meter tall and has prominently veined leaves, althought the basal half of the plant is leafless.

The photo at right was supplied by Jay Vanini in Guatemala, of a plant from northern Panama.

Sobralia atropubescens pix by Rusty Albert

The photo at left was provided by Rusty Albert of a plant from Costa Rica. It was misidentified by Selby as Sobralia luteola, however. As a matter of fact, this represents the form that was described from Panama as Sobralia decora var. aerata P.H. Allen & L.O. Williams 1942. Most probably it will be recognized ultimately as a separate species which Williams originally wanted to call Sob. aerata. The very ruffled lip with broad white margin is limited to Panama. In Panama, it hybridizes naturally with Sob. bouchei.

The plant illustrated has the following characteristics: "20 inches tall with 16 leads. The flowers are 3.5 inches wide. Mature leaves are 6 inches long by 2.5 inches wide. It is grown in a SE facing window with sun most of the day, but intermediate conditions (usually 60-80 F with occasional lows of 55 and rare highs of 85). It is by an open window."

Sobralia atropubescens has been found growing in Costa Rica at 500m altitude (near Guanacaste) and 1500m altitude (near Arenal).

There is some confusion between this species and Sobralia melanothrix. The name Sobralia atropubescens has been given to plants coming from South America, whereas it should only be used for plants in Costa Rica and Panama. Sobralia melanothrix does not have prominent keels on the lip, and the flowers are smaller than those of Sobralia melanothrix.

Løjtnant (1977) writes: "Sobralia melanothrix resembles S. atropubescens from Costa Rica with its darkly pubescent sheaths and leaves. In fact, S. melanothrix and S. atropubescens seem to represent another example of the close phytogeographical relationship which exists betwen Costa Rica and Ecuador."

Online References:

International Plant Names Index [IPNI],

ING: Index Nominum Genericorum, URL: from the U.S. National Herbarium, Dept. of Systematic Biology - Botany, Smithsonian Institution

Sobralia atropubescens is listed in the BIMS database for Costa Rica (Biodiversity Information Management System).

William A. Haber (2001) "Plants of Monteverde: Orchidaceae" in: Monteverde Natural History

Listed in the "Checklist of the orchids of Rara Avis", Rainforest Lodge & Reserve, Costa Rica

Printed References:

Oakes Ames and Charles Schweinfruth 1930. Sched. Orch. 10:2.

Robert L. Dressler 1993. Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 374p.

Bernt Løjtnant 1977. "Neottioideae from Ecuador," in: Bot. Notiser 130: 169-171 [includes line drawing of Sobralia melanothrix].

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